With razor-sharp wit and insight, intrepid journalist Tony Horwitz gets beyond solemn newspaper headlines and romantic myths of Arabia to offer startling close-ups of a volatile region few Westerners understand. His quest for hot stories takes him from the tribal wilds of Yemen to the shell-pocked shores of Lebanon; from the malarial sands of the Sudan to the eerie souks of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, a land so secretive that even street maps and weather reports are banned. At an oasis in the Empty Quarter, a veiled woman offers tea and a mysterious declaration of love. In Cairo, "politeness police" patrol seedy nightclubs to ensure that belly dancers don't show any belly. And at the Ayatollah's funeral in Tehran a mourner chants, "Death to America," then confesses to the author his secret dream -- to visit Disneyland. Careening through thirteen Muslim countries and Israel, Horwitz travels light, packing a keen eye, a wicked sense of humor, and chutzpah in almost suicidal measure. This wild and comic tale of Middle East misadventure reveals a fascinating world in which the ancient and the modern collide. -- Back cover.
On Yemeni qat:
"I think Americans like drugs that hit fast and hard and then wear off, such as whiskey and cocaine," he said. "They could never get used to something that makes you sit around all afternoon doing nothing." -p.17
"I was to spend a lot of time nodding gravely as bile poured from both Palestinians and Israelis. It was easier than explaining that I thought they were both right, or both wrong. I wasn't sure which." - p. 136
"Khomeini, for all his fanaticism, hadn't abused power to enrich himself or advance his family. But the guests' grudging respect for the imam had another source. They felt the same pride as other Iranians when Khomeini thumbed his nose at the rest of the world." p. 246-7
Having said all that….consider my surprise when I picked it up again and found myself once again enjoying the stories hidden inside!
Baghdad Without a Map was written right up to the beginning of the first war in Iraq. Without a doubt, it’s an interesting perspective on how Tony Horwitz saw the Middle East before it changed into how we know/see it today. Over the past few years, I’ve developed an interest in books focusing on the Middle East/Asia regions, particularly now that they have figured so profoundly in all of our lives here in the US.
Horwitz is very descriptive of his encounters in a variety of situations. I felt like he led me through each country on a roller coaster ride, holding my breath that he would come out unscathed in each adventure. To have the opportunity to have lived such a life! I’m terribly envious of him!! Also very wistful that I will probably never get the chance (given current events –can we say safety?) to see this part of the world as he was able to see it.
If you enjoy travel adventure, I would certainly suggest giving this book a try. Even though it now stands somewhat dated, there is more than enough there to still identify with.